Bits of Stone for February 17, 2013
By Dean Stone
Rest of local story behind tonight’s free UT Rachmaninoff Remembered concert
Seventy years ago, on Feb. 13, 1943, the famed Russian composer, pianist and conductor Sergi Vasilievich Rachmaninoff gave his final public performance at the University of Tennessee. He died five weeks later on March 28 in Beverly Hills, Calif., of melanoma.
On Feb. 1, 1943, he and his wife became American citizens.
He was buried in Valhalia, N.Y. Four days after he died, he would have been 70 years of age. In 1918, he performed a tour of 40 performances in the United States. He had bought a home in the United States in 1921.
Rachmaninoff was very ill during his final tour and had cancelled a previous engagement in Knoxville.
Therefore he was reluctant to cancel again. Though quite weak and gaunt, he is said to have played brilliantly in the UT concert.
Tonight’s concert is by internationally acclaimed Russian pianist Evgheny Brakhman, one of generations of classical pianists influenced by Rachmaninoff’s work. It is at 8 p.m. in the James R. Cox Auditorium on the second floor of the Alumni Memorial Building on the UT Knoxville campus.
The building was known as the Alumni Memorial Gymnasium when Rachmaninoff performed.
How did this happen?
A year ago, Brakhman performed in the 2012 Young Pianist Series that is held in the Lambert Hall of the Clayton Center on the Maryville College campus.
The late Sandra Murphy, executive director of the Young Pianist Series, was very ill and missed the recital.
When he came from Russia to perform in Maryville, he stayed a few extra days as guest of Dr. Fred and Jane Tolhurst.
They asked Evgheny where he would like to go for some relaxation. He replied; “Three places, please: the mountains, an outlet mall and the Rachmaninoff statue in Knoxville.
They took him to Little Greenbriar School and the Walker Sisters’ cabin, Tanger Outlets in Sevierville and ended the day in front of the statue of his idol.
After admiring the beautiful bronze “Rachmaninoff, the Last Concert,” he said, “I wish I could come next year to honor him by playing an all-Rachmaninoff concert where he performed his last one.” That sparked an idea which the vivacious Jane Tolhurst, one who accomplishes much in her community leadership, didn’t let rest.
The program tonight is presented by the Evelyn Miller Young Pianist Series in partnership with the UT Knoxville, School of Music, College of Arts and Sciences.
The sponsors of the event include three Maryville families: Dr. John Harvey Bowen, who lost his battle with pneumonia Friday night; Fran and Chris Leonard, and Jane and Fred Tolhurst.
Joining them in this endeavor are Mirandi and Brandon Herrenbruck and Jan and Bill Metcalfe, all of Franklin, and American Piano Gallery of Farragut.
(Jane and Fred Tolhurst moved to Blount County as the result of the efforts of Dr. John Bowen.)
Knoxville statue unveiled in 2005
The Knoxville statue of Rachmaninoff was unveiled in Knoxville, Sept. 14, 2005, presented by the Russian sculptor Victor Bokarev. It was bronzed by funds raised by a community group headed by Natalie Haslam and placed in the World’s Fair Park as public art. There is also a major statue of Rachmaninoff in Moscow.
The original drawing of the Knoxville statue of Rachmaninoff on the program for tonight’s event was done by Amy Campbell of Maryville. Amy is well known for her illustrations and murals in the Maryville Municipal Building rotunda.
Evgheny is a house guest of Fred and Jane Tolhurst while in East Tennessee. He will be performing in two private sessions in Maryville while he is in town.
He will also teach piano master classes at the University of Tennessee’s School of Music on Monday.
Other 2013 concerts are scheduled in Russia, Italy, Israel and the Ukraine.
He lives in Gorky City, Russia, with his pianist wife and 6-year-old daughter who plays the violin. However, when he arrived in Maryville Friday, he said, “Déjà vu,” and a few minutes later, “I am home.”
After dinner at the Foothills Milling Company Friday evening, Evgheny made a toast to the food, stating that he rarely ate at a restaurant where every bite of every course was delicious, and decided that he loved gourmet Southern food, especially fried green tomatoes, something not served in Russia.
Tennessee ranks seventh in severe hail storm reports during 2012
Texas ranks No. 1 among the nation’s number of severe hail storm reports in 2012 with 795. The remainder of the top 10 include Kansas 426, Nebraska 384, North Carolina 319, Oklahoma 299, South Dakota 293, Tennessee 258, Kentucky 248, Missouri 246, and Minnesota 235.
Of the 7,033 reported in the United States, the most occurred in May with 1,689 while March was second with 1,146 and April was third with 1,053.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times.